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Ethics and Computer Technology
Transcript of Ethics and Computer Technology
Explain common ethical issues for computer users.
Identify relevant ethical issues for students using computers for school.
What do you think now?
Read each of the following situations involving ethical decisions. After each statement, write yes or no; then briefly explain why you made that decision.
1.) You have less than a week to complete your senior project. You have been very busy participating in spring sports, working at a part-time job, enjoying your senior year, and making plans for life after graduation. You have not had much time left for schoolwork. But if you don't get a passing grade on this paper, you may not graduate with your class. A friend shows you a web site where you can buy research papers written by college students. Would you buy a paper?
2.) Instead of buying a paper, a friend suggests that you use the Internet to find articles and papers about your topic, then use the Copy/Paste functions to assemble a paper of your own. You can even cite the original documents as research sources. That way you end up with a complete paper and don't have to write more than a few original paragraphs. Would you follow your friends advice?
3.) You find a web site that explains how to hack into your school's computer network. The site says that you can go into a school's system and play a prank, such as switching phone numbers or altering the times the bells ring to start and end class periods. Would you do that?
4.) A friend tells you in confidence that she has been spending hours every week Facebook messaging a boy in another state. Or at least that's who she thought it was. Now the messages are starting to get creepy. The person described what she was wearing yesterday and said he had followed her home from school one day without her knowledge. She's afraid that the messages are getting more threatening. But she makes you promise not to tell anyone, especially an adult. She is more afraid of getting in trouble at home if her parents find out what is happening. Would you break the promise and tell an adult?
Researchers Peggy Bates and Margaret Fain surveyed students, looking for some academic dishonesty. Their surveys and interviews found some common themes:
Some students cheat or plagiarize in a desperate attempt to maintain high grades. They may be facing tremendous pressure from parents to get into the best schools or to get scholarships.
Other students seem to think that cheating has become socially acceptable and, therefore, must be ethical.
Some students are so overloaded with work, school, and family demands that they don't have time to complete their schoolwork without cheating.
Other students view some courses as wastes of time and justify cheating on that basis.
Some students don't seem to understand the deeper purposes of an education. They see school only as a series of obstacles on the way to a job. Cheating is one way around the obstacles.
Other students cheat out of self-defense. They see other students cheating and begin cheating themselves to keep things fair.
Some students have never been taught what actions constitute plagiarism.
Do you think cheating in school can ever be justified by the reasons listed above or by any other reasons? Explain
Computer Ethics Issues for Users
Throughout history, advances in technology have often helped people to be more productive and to improve the quality of their lives. The earliest technological advances, such as the use of metals and the inventions of tools and the wheel, made it possible for humans to survive in a hostile environment. Later technologies, such as electricity, telephones, automobiles, and airplanes, made life more convenient and brought people from distant places together. Throughout human history, several patterns have emerged in the relationship between people, ethics, and new technologies.
One pattern has been that humans have a love/hate relationship with new technologies.
Another pattern is that only AFTER new technologies are introduced into society are the ethical implications of the technologies introduced.
A third pattern in human history is that the more potential new technologies have to be used for good, the more potential they also have to be used in harmful ways.
A fourth (and somewhat surprising) pattern is that new technologies do not produce new ethical issues at all.....Instead, the innovations simply force people to look at old ethical issues in new ways.
Personal Identity Theft
Identity theft: occurs when someone steals another person's personal information, such as credit card account numbers and Social Security numbers, for personal financial gain.
To minimize your risk...
Check your personal credit report annually for any irregularities
Use passwords on your credit accounts that cannot be guessed easily
Be cautious about giving out personal information to anyone
Phishing scams: attempts to get personal financial information using phone calls, the mail, or the Internet
Spam: unsolicited electronic advertisements
Copyright: a legal right granted to the creator, publisher, or distributor of a work
Piracy: the unauthorized and illegal reproduction, sale, distribution, or other use of copyrighted works.
Hacking: the act of using computer equipment to "break into" the computer systems of others.
Schwartau's categories of hackers include:
Ethical Hackers (or White Hats), who are often hiredby companies as consultants to test system security.
Crackers, who break into computers and networks illegally.
Hacker Gangs, organized groups that hack each other, web sites, and companies.
Hactivists, those whose hacking goals are to further a social or political cause.
Criminal Hackers (or Black Hats), professional criminal hackers whose goal is to make money and/or harm the interests of others.
Cyber-Terrorist Hackers, violent extremists who use hacking as a tool to further their terrorist purposes.
Nation-State Hackers, known as cyber-spies, who hack on behalf of the interests of their nation. Many countries, including the United States, hire hackers to defend government networks and computers and/or to actively infiltrate other governments' networks and computers.
Computer viruses: programs designed to negatively affect other computers, usually causing loss of information.
Viruses are high-tech vandalism!
The following actions can minimize your risk of "catching" a virus:
Purchase good antivirus software.
Be cautious about opening e-mails, particularly e-mail attachments. Some sophisticated viruses now disguise themselves as e-mail attachments from someone you know.
Do not download computer files from strangers.
Be skeptical about e-mails other people forward to you, as this is a prime tactic for spreading viruses.
Back up the data and files on your computer in case of "catching" a virus.
What do you think now?
Which of these ethical issues discussed in this section do you think represents the most serious ethical problem?
Computer Ethics Issues for Students
Plagiarism: act of taking work written or created by someone else and using it as one's own.
Validating Information From the Internet
Conducting an Internet search on a topic can yield an enormous storehouse of information--some of it invaluable, and some of it of questionable validity. How do you evaluate information from the Internet when sources are anonymous and anyone can post information?
What can you do to ensure that the information you find on the Internet is accurate? While you can never be 100% sure about the accuracy of every research fact you uncover, you can take some practical steps to maximize your chances of getting the facts right....Author Robert Harris recommends the CARS model for evaluating web site facts and information.
What makes this source believable?
How does this source know the information?
Why should this source be believed over others?
Warning signs include anonymous articles or web pages, clear lack of quality control, many negative reviews of the web site, bad grammar, and misspelled words. To test a site's credibility, check the author's identity and credentials. Is the author's name and biographical information provided? What is the author's position, job, or title?
In addition, look for evidence of quality control. For example, make sure the information was obtained from other respected sources, such as books or journals with quality control process.
Is the information up-to-date, factual, detailed, exact, and comprehensive?
Indicators of lack of accuracy include documents with no dates, stereotypes and generalizations, old dates on information known to change rapidly, and one-sided views on issues. To test for accuracy, check timeliness, comprehensivess, and intended purpose. Does the author tell the whole story or just the part that fits his or her purpose? What is the author's aim--to sell you somethin, to persuade you to agree with a point of view, or simply to inform you?
Are the arguments presented balanced and reasoned?
Symptoms of unreasonableness might include obvious fallacies (especially name-calling), exaggerations, and clear conflicts of interest. An example might be a corporate web site with links to research studies about how great the company's products are.
To test reasonableness, check fairness, objectivity, moderateness, consistency, and world view. Are opposing arguments presented fairly? Is the information slanted toward one side or the other? Is the information believable? Does the information contradict itself? Or is it logically consistent throughout? Does the author write from a narrow political ideological position or from one that is more balanced and objective?
Can this information be corroborated by other sources, and are those sources provided?
Indications of poor support include numbers or statistics presented without identified sources, an absence of source documentation, and a lack of other sources that present the same information. To test for support, check source documentations and bibliographies. Are sources clearly identified? Check several to be sure they are valid....this is especially important when statistics are presented as evidence of fact.
A process such as the CARS model requires some effort. But that extra work is essential if you want to have confidence in the facts you present. Otherwise, you may find yourself embarrassed when an instructor or supervisor tells you that the information on which you based a report is not true.
What do you think now?
Have you ever cheated on a school assignment or exam? If so, describe the situation. How did you feel about it then? How do you feel about it now? If you have never cheated, why do you think that is so? What kept you from cheating when you may have been tempted?